Minneapolis, MN – The judge presiding over the murder trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin said Monday that calls for a “guilty, guilty, guilty” verdict by lawmakers could result in “the whole trial being overturned” and then the mayor of Minneapolis did that exact thing.
Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill was referring to remarks made by U.S. Representative Maxine Waters (D-California) over the weekend.
After the jury left the courtroom to begin deliberations on April 19, Chauvin’s defense attorney, Eric Nelson, argued that Waters’ comments could have prejudiced the jury and therefore merited a mistrial.
Nelson raised concerns that Cahill’s instructions to avoid news weren’t strong enough and were impossible for the jurors to follow given the “sum total of this trial happening in such a public context.”
He pointed out that even the most popular police television shows had covered Chauvin’s trial in recent days.
The defense attorney told the judge that one of the defense’s expert witness’ former home was targeted and vandalized on April 17 after he testified on behalf of Chauvin.
“We have U.S. representatives threatening acts of violence in relation to this specific case. It’s mind-boggling to me judge,” Nelson told the judge.
“Well, I’ll give you that Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned,” the judge said.
But then he denied the defense attorney’s motion for a mistrial and said “a congresswoman’s opinion doesn’t really matter a whole lot.”
“This goes back to what I’ve been saying since the beginning,” Cahill told the attorneys. “I wish elected officials would stop talking about this case, especially in a manner that is disrespectful to the rule of law and to the judicial branch and our function.”
“I think if they want to give their opinions, they should do so… in a manner that is consistent with their oath to the Constitution and to respect a co-equal branch of government. Their failure to do so is abhorrent,” the judge ranted, showing the most emotion he has ever displayed during the trial.
But Cahill said he didn’t feel the jury had been prejudiced by Waters’ remarks because he had instructed them not to read or watch the news.
The defense has repeatedly pointed out that Cahill has not restricted the jury’s use of social media.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey appeared to jump on Waters’ bandwagon just moments after the judge made his remarks about politicians keeping their opinions to themselves.
“Regardless of the outcome of this trial, regardless of the decision made by the jury, there is one true reality – which is that George Floyd was killed at the hands of police,” Frey told reporters at a press conference on Monday evening.
Jacob Frey, the Mayor of Minneapolis, couldn’t even wait 10 minutes to do what Judge Cahill just asked elected officials not to do! Another appeal gift! Amazing. pic.twitter.com/QrTUbWpl1x
— Starscream CIA-Simulation Warlord 🇺🇸🦈🇺🇸 (@zerosum24) April 19, 2021
“Being black in America should not, cannot be a death sentence,” the mayor added.
A video of Waters’ call to action the night before closing arguments began in Chauvin’s trial for the murder of Floyd quickly went viral.
“We’re looking for a guilty verdict,” she told assembled reporters and protesters in the video.
The lawmaker attended the protest with a police escort she requested for herself after curfew on the eight consecutive night of riots in Brooklyn Center.
The latest riots began after 20-year-old Daunte Wright was fatally shot by former Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kimberly Potter, who fired her weapon thinking she was deploying her Taser.
Potter has been charged with second-degree manslaughter.
“We’re looking for a guilty verdict and we’re looking to see if all of the talk that took place and has been taking place after they saw what happened to George Floyd. If nothing does not happen, then we know that we have got to not only stay in the street but we have got to fight for justice.”
“But I’m very hopeful,” Waters told the assembled crowd of protesters. “And I hope that we’re going to get a verdict that will say guilty guilty guilty. And if we don’t, we cannot go away.”
She told reporters that a manslaughter verdict from the jury wouldn’t be sufficient, the video showed.
“Oh no, not manslaughter,” Waters insisted. “This is guilty for murder. I don’t know whether it’s in the first degree but as far as I’m concerned, it’s first-degree murder.”
Chauvin is facing charges of second-degree and third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in the death of Floyd.
“We gotta stay on the streets and we’ve gotta get more active,” Waters urged the protesters. “We’ve gotta get more confrontational. We’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business.”